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Election Post Mortem in the Village PDF Print E-mail
Written by John Ise, BT Contributor   
December 2016

Hope for the best, fear the worst

I bigstock-Donald-Trump-arrives-at--Cen-99282074originally intended to write this December neighborhood column on the Village of Biscayne Park’s ongoing budget woes and efforts to expand its boundaries (and budget coffers) through annexation. That column, however, will have to wait for another day -- I need this time to comment on November 8, that politically earth-shattering and, to my mind, surreal day when the nation elected Donald Trump to be our 45th president.

The reaction I saw from residents in the tri-Village area ranged from primal, visceral rage and shocked horror to serene acceptance. There’s no sugar-coating it; for progressively minded Villagers, this was a punch to the gut followed by a swift kick to the teeth.

That’s no surprise, given the political leanings of Village voters. Of the nine voting precincts that cover Biscayne Park, Miami Shores, El Portal, and some of the neighboring unincorporated areas, Hillary Clinton’s vote ranged from a low of 71 percent in precinct 177, in Biscayne Park, to a high of 86 percent in precinct 159, which includes El Portal.

On NE 102nd Street, where I live, there were no fewer than 20 Clinton/Kaine yard signs, and I would venture to say there are more peacocks in El Portal than there were Trump/Pence signs all three villages.

Yet the rage, anger, fear, sorrow, and heartache expressed on social media of Village residents was not really about their political candidate losing. It was more about their candidate losing to Donald Trump. Most Villagers I’ve talked to view Trump as a loutish, ego-driven, thin-skinned bully who is drawn to an unyielding application of power.

But then again, so what? There are a multitude of political figures for whom the aforementioned could also apply. No, what makes Trump so uniquely problematic for so many is the not-so-subtle race baiting, the blatant Islamophobia and xenophobia, the violent rhetoric he used and inspired, and the objectification of women as prey to be pursued and groped.

Perusing Facebook, it’s easy to get the temperature of the community, and it is raw and emotional here. Putting out a call for residents to share their feelings, many felt the emotions were still too raw to share.

Shores resident Greg Walton wrote that it was like losing a loved one.

Bob Smith of the Shores Village People wrote, “I felt more alone than I ever have in my life last night. Like my life and any good I have endeavored to do were repudiated by 1/2 of my fellow citizens. My sister called me this morning and I didn’t take the call because I know she voted for Trump.”

“I am devastated,” wrote Miami Shores Councilwoman Ivonne Ledesma. “I am saddened and concerned for our country, our environment, immigrants and (like myself) children of immigrants.”

The Rev. Meg Watson from the Miami Shores Community Church wrote: “To my gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered family and friends: I love you fiercely and will never stop fighting for your rights....To all my ‘sisters’ who have suffered sexual assault: I see you. I believe you, whether or not you reported it at the time.” She noted that the election represents an embrace of “every foul and hateful thing I have spent my entire life working to overcome.”

All this and so much more makes acceptance of Trump’s victory a real challenge. But the truth is, most Trump supporters are actually fine folks, not bigots. They’ll tell you directly that the country has gone to hell and they’ve had it with political correctness. Then in the very next breath they’ll invite you over for a beer and barbeque.

The Atlantic’s Salena Zito smartly wrote that, in a nutshell, Trump’s opponents didn’t take Trump seriously but took his over-the-top pronouncements literally, whereas Trump’s supporters took him seriously, but not literally. And for many, it was as simple as casting a vote for what they perceived as change or the status quo, with change winning the day.

A hopeful and constructive response comes from Shores resident Abeer Jadallah, a teacher at Doctor’s Charter and practicing Muslim (the bête noir in Trump’s worldview), who wrote: “I’m getting myself ready to walk into one of the most diverse schools in the country. Hispanic, black, white, biracial, Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, gay, straight, Asian, Haitian. I’m going to stand for the Pledge and I’m going to teach my students how to affect change without hate. I’m going to teach them about that revolutionary document, the Constitution.... I’m going to teach them that bullying is wrong, scapegoating is wrong; that they alone are responsible for their successes and failures. I’m going to teach them that life is good, all the time.”

Perhaps the post-election angst is emotion on hyper-drive. And maybe this was all an act, and Trump will pivot. Maybe he will govern as a very different person than candidate Trump. Let’s hope so. Both Clinton and Obama have asked their supporters to give him a chance.

But what if the worst suspicions of a Trump presidency come to fruition? What if millions of undocumented immigrants are targeted for deportation, breaking families apart? What if racial/ethnic tensions are intentionally inflamed for political gain? What if the weak and infirm continue to be ridiculed? What if Trump’s government pursues a policy that encourages the spread of nuclear weapons and heightens the risk of annihilation? It is these “what ifs” that keep me awake at night.

The old labor union adage of “don’t mourn, organize” is a good place to start. However, beyond resistance, where is it we, as a community and a nation, are going from here? Trump’s triumph has deepened racial, religious, ethnic, and class divisions with a level of incivility that is a cancer on the republic.

We need some mass movement that unwinds the factionalism, the mindless partisanship, and the racial/ethnic tribalism that Trump brilliantly exploited -- a peaceful, broad coalition of decent men and women who span the ideological spectrum, from the likes of Mitt Romney to Bernie Sanders, who commit to civility and constructive dialogue and bipartisan compromise to national problems.

Diana Pinagel acknowledges this and calls for an end to the perpetual verbal sniping. In interacting with a Trump-supporting friend, Pinagel wrote that “few of us were actually investigating the issues in a serious manner. We…were just regurgitating what we wanted to hear. Most importantly, we were not listening to each other. I think, for the most part, we all want the same things, but disagree on how to achieve these. In the future, I hope that we learn to actively listen to each other. We must learn to dialogue, or we will never learn to work together.”

Amen to that.

 

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